Securing the Arrangements for Your Children Post-Separation: Expert Divorce Solicitors covering Newcastle and Sunderland
When a married couple separates, it is possible – and indeed likely – that one or both parties will want to pursue a divorce through the Family Court; they may even wish to reach a Financial Settlement through the Courts – whether by making an application or submitting a pre-agreed ‘Consent Order’. The Arrangements For the parties’ Children (previously know as Custody of Children or Child Access) however are perhaps less likely to have been dealt with formally by a Court.
Where the breakdown of your relationship was amicable, this can work seamlessly; however, as we too often see at Emmersons Family Law Solicitors, if there is residual bitterness between separating parents, things can become very turbulent for the children involved. When the adults who share Parental Responsibility for a child no longer get along, it can be very easy for children to become caught in the crossfire – pulled this way and that by adults whose animosity towards each other has made them lose sight of what is really important.
It is something of a myth that the concept of Parental Responsibility gives parents a strict right to spend a fixed amount of time with their children or to boisterously vary the arrangements for their child without consideration for how this will affect them. The law in this area is in fact very child-centred, and the focus is very much on the duties and responsibilities of the relevant parent to the child, rather than the rights of the parent over the child. A parent who acts without regard for their child’s welfare may, at the very least, risk appearing selfish; they may even present as a risk factor.
If you are the ‘primary carer’ for your children after the breakdown of the relationship – i.e. they live with you, and you provide their day-to-day care – you might encounter a number of difficulties: your ex-partner might remove the children from school without your knowledge or agreement; they might take the children to spend time with them, and later refuse to return them to you; or, they might aggressively demand that you allow them to spend increasing amounts of time with the children, asserting their ‘Joint Parental Rights’, or something similar.
Equally you may feel that your ex-partner is preventing you, or your relatives, sufficient Child Access (also known as Arrangements For Children) or you may seek Joint Custody. You may feel excluded from information about your child’s schooling or you may feel that your ex-partner is not allowing you time to take your children on holiday.
The difficulty in situations such as these is that you may feel that you have nowhere to turn. As upsetting as the ordeal may be for you and your children, their school, Social Services, and even the Police may be unable to intervene in what is essentially a private matter between adults with Parental Responsibility; but that’s not to say that you are powerless to act where the arrangements for your children spending time with your ex-partner have become fraught. In circumstances such as these, you could consider making an application to the Family Court for a Child Arrangements Order.
Child Arrangements Orders – are made by the Family Courts and are governed by the Children Act 1989 – cover the arrangements for whom a child will live with, whom they will spend time with, and for how long. Once such an order is made, a party who breaches its terms could be fined, made to undertake unpaid work, or – in an extreme case – found guilty of contempt of Court, and committed to prison. These orders can, therefore, provide some much-needed certainty for you and your children.
When considering applications of this nature, the Court’s main priority is the welfare of the children involved, and Judges will specifically direct their minds to questions such as: how capable are each of the children’s parents of meeting their physical, emotional and educational needs? What are the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the children? And, what is the likely effect on the children of a change in their circumstances?
The Judges hearing Child Arrangements Order applications adhere to what is called the ‘no order principle’, which essentially means that they will not make an order unless there is some tangible benefit to the children involved. An application made simply to put the status quo on a more formal footing is therefore unlikely to succeed; however, if you are worried that the Arrangements for your Child have become so tense as to be upsetting your child, you should consider seeking specialist advice.
Clearly applying to the Courts is not something to be taken lightly, and you may feel you need advice as to your other options before deciding how best to proceed. Emmersons Solicitors Expert Family Team will endeavour to deal with your enquiries with sensitivity, and will always attempt to resolve things in the most amicable way possible. Many of our clients have found that simply obtaining advice as to their options empowers them to address difficulties as they arise, and we are often able to find effective solutions to our clients’ problems without the need to resort to the Court; for example we will always attempt to negotiate issues relating to Custody of Children. We can achieve this by Round Table Meetings. We also have Collaborative Family Lawyers who have been trained to settle cases without the need to attend court.
“After being in the legal field and having rubbed shoulders with the cream of the crop of firms, I decided to use a local firm myself for child contact issues. I met your lawyer who was extremely well versed in this format of law. He was a good listener and kept the whole process as simple and diplomatic as possible. I would never have known he was a Trainee, he seems to be working the circuit like an old pro. Thanks guys for all of your help, regards Usman”.
Should you require assistance in relation to Arrangements For Children, Child Access, Custody of Children, Joint Custody or Fathers Rights, contact Emmersons Solicitors on 0191 567 6667
Book your Custody of Children Advice Session at our Newcastle office: 0191 284 6989
Book your Custody of Children Advice Session at our Sunderland office: 0191 567 6667
Nine Reasons Why You Should Instruct a Solicitor To Handle Your Divorce – (and the pitfalls of a Do-It-Yourself Divorce) Free eGuide.
We are frequently asked about the value of instructing an expert solicitor to handle a divorce. We have put together this useful guide which will answer many of your questions. If you are contemplating a divorce or separation, and wondering whether you need a solicitor to assist you, then our guide will help you to decide.